Why historians condemn Trump

Why would a historian trying to sell his book risk alienating potential customers by devoting a web page to attacking Donald Trump? Because Trump has attacked the First Amendment, denied historical facts, and is working to undermine the work of historians and journalists.

Trump and treason

Statement on July 16, 2018, by war hero and conservative Republican John McCain about Trump's shameful, treasonous meeting with Putin:


“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.

“President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world.

“It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout – as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world. 

“Coming close on the heels of President Trump’s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today’s press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency. That the president was attended in Helsinki by a team of competent and patriotic advisors makes his blunders and capitulations all the more painful and inexplicable.

“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed. Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain.”



What can reasonable people do about Trump?


1) Mock him.

The more we laugh at Trump, the more undermined he will become. Laughter is the best revenge. So share those Saturday Night Live sketches with your parents, grandparents, and uncles and aunts. Sign up for the New Yorker’s free daily report by Andy Borowitz, and share it widely. Remind people that Trump is a terrible businessman who succeeded only because his lawyers helped him abuse bankruptcy laws.


2) Continue to tell the truth.

The more Trump lies, the more we must counter with the facts.


3) Focus on the 2018 Senate races.

The most important institution in America right now is the U.S. Senate, which confirms or rejects Supreme Court nominees. One-third of the Senate will be up for election this year. The Democrats are three seats away from controlling the Senate. Contribute to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Frankly, it will be difficult for the Democrats to take the Senate. But not impossible.


4) Subscribe to a real newspaper.

Mainstream media are our only firewall against Trump’s lies and “alternative facts.” The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post are leading the charge for truth, justice, and the American way, but your hometown journalists are also important. Subscribe in print or online, but subscribe. Facebook’s algorithms aren’t substitutes for real journalism. Subscribe. And if you have the money, get a gift subscription for a younger person.


5) Support our frontline troops.

In this war, the frontline troops are the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood. Although I suspect the ACLU will become increasingly ineffective as Trump starts filling the courts with judges who impose their religion and extremist ideology on others, it will continue to sue the pants off the most egregious offenders of the Bill of Rights. It’s inevitable that Planned Parenthood will lose federal funding given the makeup of the Congress and the lies about its role—yes, that was fake news about selling embryos for fun and profit—but in many parts of the country, it’s the only women’s health provider. Its structure (as a federation) is wacky, so I recommend giving to its national operations, rather than the regional ones (like the awkwardly named Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, which serves mostly blue states). I also give money to the Trust Women Foundation, which serves women in some of the most desolate, underserved parts of the nation, including Kansas and Oklahoma.